When it comes to revitalization, Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood may be the outstanding example in the history of the entire country. Having spent most of its existence as a social housing complex, representing a grim litany of poverty, social ills, crime and poor urban design, today Regent Park is becoming a community that fits in with the wider city, and is a housing destination of choice for young professionals and families.
Bordered by Gerrard Street to the north, Parliament Street to the west, River Street to the east and Shuter Street to the south, Regent Park is being remodelled. A revitalization plan began in 2005, and the neighbourhood now includes a mixed-income, mixed-use complex for 12,500 residents, with a new aquatic centre, a new community centre, an arts and cultural centre and new retail and commercial spaces.
The new designs, by leading architectural firms in the city, have sparked tremendous interest among those attracted not only by the new plans, but the location in downtown Toronto and the opportunity to be part of a vibrant, diverse, new community that will play a major role in transforming the city.
History and Social Profile
From its beginnings in the early 1900s, Regent Park has been home to some of the city’s worst slums. Populated initially by poor British and Irish immigrants, along with some Jewish and Balkan refugees, the area was turned into a public housing project after World War II. Between 1947 and 1960, a series of highrises — administered by Toronto Community Housing — were constructed. But although the complex was designed to correct the neighbourhood’s historic problems with substandard housing, crime and social problems, the buildings soon exacerbated the problems with their substandard quality and the grim design foisted on the neighbourhood.
By the mid-1960s, many of the buildings were falling into disrepair, problems that have persisted until today. At the same time, the area was becoming much more multicultural as immigrants from the Caribbean, China and Southeast Asia settled in the complex. While that multiculturalism fostered a unique cultural diversity in the area, it also led to some tensions, including with the police and with gangs. Crime, poverty and social exclusion have continued to be problems for Regent Park since.
But the redesign, kickstarted by the city with the aim of transforming Regent Park into a successful, mixed-income, mixed use neighbourhood, and carried out by some of the country’s leading architectural firms, has offered Regent Park a chance to start over. The finished redesign will consist of a mixture of rental and condo buildings and townhouses, as well as such already-completed community facilities as the Daniels Spectrum, the city’s newest arts and cultural centre, and a $15 million aquatic centre on Dundas Street that opened late in 2012
The plan also proposes to introduce three new streets to the city to increase traffic through Regent Park, and more than 500 replacement rental social housing units and more than 2,000 market condominiums. New businesses are expected to open along the major streets bordering Regent Park, revitalizing the economic and social life of the community.
The result has been an intense interest in the chance to get in on the ground floor of a complex that will be in prime real estate, close to desirable neighbourhoods like Cabbagetown and Corktown, within easy reach of the businesses and entertainment venues of downtown. The market condos have begun to attract interest from young professionals, and especially from those who will be ready to start families when the redesign is finished.
The ambitious plan represents a significant development for Toronto, as well as a new approach to both social housing and the creation of desirable neighbourhoods in the heart of a major urban centre.
- Paintbox Bistro
- Qi Sushi
- The Dominion
- Magic Oven
- Nelson Mandela Park Public School, 440 Shuter Street, 416-393-1730
- Jarvis Collegiate Institute, 495 Jarvis Street, 416-393-0140
- Inglenook Community High School, 19 Sackville Street, 416-393-0560
- Regent Park/Duke of York Junior Public School, 20 Regent Street, 416-393-1730
- St. Paul Catholic School, 80 Sackville Street, 416-393-5204
- Dundas Streetcar
- Gerrard Streetcar
- Queen Streetcar
- Buses run along Parliament